Plaques by Azra Now Part of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

AzraWe’re proud to announce that one of our clients, Plaques by Azra, has just been accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program is a $500 million national program that is committed to creating jobs and stimulating economic growth across the United States. The program, funded by Goldman Sachs and the Goldman Sachs Foundation, accomplishes this goal by giving select small business owners the access to business education, business support services, and capital that they need in order to grow their businesses, and it’s absolutely free.

After hearing the good news, we caught up with Azra, who manages the business with her parents Aunali and Shirin, to get her take on this exciting opportunity.

Azra, whose participation in the Tory Burch Foundation (TBF) Microloan Program led to her introduction to the Goldman Sachs program, is also a certified member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. She feels empowered, saying, “I now have all the tools I need to grow my business. I can already see the shift in my mind. I never realized I could grow my business so much, so fast.”

As one of the over 1200 who have participated or are currently participating in the program, Azra will get access to a 12-session business course, opportunities to develop her leadership skills, one-on-one business advising, a customized business growth plan, and a network of other small business owners.

Given the resources offered through Accion, TBF, and Goldman Sachs, Azra now aspires to grow her business and position it so that it can pay this generosity forward. She has a “soft spot” for women and children and would love to create jobs within her community and set up a foundation that serves women and children in need.

When asked what advice she has for those looking to start their own business, Azra said simply, “Go for it.”

Need a plaque, award, signage, banners, or promotional products? Visit Plaques by Azra.

GivingTuesday: Help an Entrepreneur Realize a Dream

Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. This year, we are participating in a new tradition: #GivingTuesday. A new day for giving back.

Without generosity, we might not be able to access or obtain the things that we are grateful for. If it were not for your boss giving you the opportunity to work for his or her company, you might not be able to afford that new house you love. If it were not for being given financial aid or a scholarship, you might not have gone to the college of your dreams. Whether we realize it or not, we are presented with gifts, both tangible and intangible, every day.

As a supporter of small businesses, Accion East asks you to help an entrepreneur realize a dream.You can do so by giving towards a loan on peer-to-peer lending platform, Kiva. There are currently three Accion East clients on Kiva with approaching deadlines that need your help.

Gustavo founded Florida’s Cremations America in honor of his late grandmother in an effort to “bring peace to families that have lost a loved one.” He plans to use his loan to expand his inventory and to building a room where families can go to privately honor and respect their deceased loved ones. Read more about his story and donate here.

Andrew is a Trinidad native who has been living in Queens, NY for the last 15 years. This entrepreneur, father, and husband sells small electronics and household appliances through his business, Kabs, since 2011. He will use his loan to expand his inventory and expand his customer base, ultimately creating a better life for his family. Read the rest of his story and help him meet his loan goal here.

Retired US Army Officer John Larry was inspired to start a massage therapy center after using massage as a remedy for his own aches and pains. John is a dedicated and hardworking entrepreneur whose business became the most productive in the Zen Massage Franchise after only two years. Help him meet his loan goal and purchase new equipment and expand the line of products he offers to his customers here.

Of course, generosity is not just a once-a-year thing. Search Accion East on Kiva any time to see how you can help other aspiring entrepreneurs by giving.

Support an Accion Client on Small Business Saturday

By Karin Johnson

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. You can join in the movement by shopping from an Accion client. We’ve compiled a list of gift selections from small business owners below for you to browse. Or, check out our client marketplace for additional products from Accion clients.

Moctar displays his wonderful inventory of African Fabrics from Mali in his store location in Harlem. Visit him at 2 West 125th Street, New York, NY.

Moctar displays his wonderful inventory of African Fabrics from Mali in his store location in Harlem. Visit him at 2 West 125th Street, New York, NY.

For the Fashionista:

Dapper World Company Shop: Find that refined or quirky neck tie or bow tie at one of the companies featured through the Dapper World Company. Features bold prints, double sided bow ties, and women’s accessories.

Erica M Legware Shop: Shop this online collection of specialty leg ware for the confident woman.

The Little Shoe Store: Check out this specialty shoe store that sells shoes for women with smaller sizes between 1 and 6. The store has a large variety of shoe styles including shoes under their own in-house brand, vintage and consignment shoes, and well as hard to find “dead stock” (from the 40s,50s,60s).

Tallawa: Talawa is a Jamaican saying, meaning “you are small but tough and strong.” The Brooklyn based husband and wife team design collections for the creative spirit with bold colored prints. Eccentric t shirts and beautiful silk dresses can inspire the fashionable friend.

For the Accessory Lover:

Falcon Feather Jewelry: Handcrafted sterling silver and vermeil jewelry. Contemporary, edgy, bold and classic. Trendy fun items.Affordable and fun line featuring use of mixed-media to create unique pieces influenced by the timeless style of the Bohemian aesthetic combined with a modern edge.

House of the Black Wolf: Howl to the moon! Got a wolf lover in mind? Or someone who likes a bit of the darker side? Check out these necklaces and rings that this full moon inspired couple creates.

Nadira Bag: Find that beautiful handmade leather bag by checking out Nadira’s collection.

Wevley Wilson: Get ahead with the fashion trends and shop Wevley Wilson’s Spring 2014 beautiful jewelry and accessories collection. Featuring colorful leather magnetic closure bands, clutch purses, and leather tassled necklaces, her refined style compliments the modern women’s wardrobe.

For the Foodie:

Sweet n Salty By Design: Great for gifts to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and more! Check out Bianca’s offerings of candied pretzels and pretzel bark.

Beehive Oven: These wonderful biscuits will be a great addition to any holiday meal. Order online or find a local retailer on their website including the Brooklyn Harvest Market or the Brooklyn Place Market.

For those with a sweet tooth:

Salty Road: Marisa branched out from working as a candymaker at another sweet shop and started Salty Road to serve up some delicious saltwater taffy. She now sells at stores throughout the country including in Manhattan.

 

For the home:

SKT Ceramics: SKT Ceramics is the result of the passion of artist Susannah Tisue. She creates beautiful mugs, bowls, and more with a calm blue hue with beautifully illustrated graphics of a variety of animals. She will launch her RAM line soon

M Quan: These beautiful inspired ceramic art pieces are a great accent to a indoor or outdoor living space. Features ceramic bells, birdhouses, plates, and artistic pieces.

Happy Halloween from Accion!

Accion prides itself on supporting small businesses.This October 31st, we’re staying committed to our support of small business and celebrating not only Halloween but also the businesses we’ve helped to build. Continue reading below and check out Accion clients that have the treats to make your spectacularly spooky Halloween spectacularly sweet.

STRAWBERRY HILL CANDY

New England’s Strawberry Hill Candy that offers gourmet lollipops, some in the shape of Halloween staples like ghosts and jack-o-lanterns, chocolate, organic honey and organic maple syrup sweeteners, teas, and even chocolate-covered nuts. Determined to make sure no child feels left out, Strawberry Hill Candy makes sweets that are gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free, shellfish free, fish free for children with food allergies or sensitivities. You can contact this candy provider directly to custom make any of the lollipop shapes you see on the site in clear allergen free and dye free.

RAAKA CHOCOLATE

Image via: raakachocolate.com

Brooklyn-based chocolatier Raaka Chocolate produces “chocolate for the bold,” virgin chocolate that is unroasted, stone ground, and made in small batches. The earth-conscious brand wraps its chocolate bars, typically made with organic ingredients, in recycled paper and donates all of its cocoa husk to an after-school gardening program in Brooklyn. They also offer soy free, gluten free, vegan, and nut free options. If you’re looking to purchase your Halloween treats from a company that makes delicious chocolate and is socially and environmentally conscious, look no further than Raaka Chocolate. See where you can purchase Raaka Chocolate near you.

REENA TREATS

Image via: reenatreats.blogspot.com

Reena’s Treats was born when owner Sereena began collecting old family baking recipes from her family members. Now, a business woman and baker, Sereena offers cupcakes, cake pops, cakes, lemon bars, bread pudding, cookies, peach cobbler, and a slew of other mouth-watering options to families and businesses who want to add a bit of flavor to their private events. Reena’s Treats, based in Harlem, has even had the pleasure of serving its decorative treats to celebrity clients like VH1 reality star Yandy Smith. This Halloween, get some celebrity treatment of your own and order some sweets from Reena’s Treats.

SALTY ROAD

SaltyRoad

Image via: twitter.com/saltyroad

Salty Road was born in June 2011 when a group of friends decided to work together to create high-quality saltwater taffy and sell it on the boardwalk in Far Rockaway, Queens. Despite being warned about the lengthy and painstaking process, Marisa, the candy maker of the group, determined to make the taffy by hand. Two years later, Salty Road taffy is still handmande and is the creamiest and softest saltwater taffy in the business. Salty Road taffy has a distinct salt crystal crunch and includes real vanilla bean which gives it its yummy vanilla flavor. You can find Salty Road taffies at retailers across the U.S., on the web, and even in Canada.

THE CHOCOLATE SWIRL

image via: facebook.com/pages/The-Chocolate-Swirl

Do you want to really show-off for your big Halloween get-together? Is your Halloween usually a dual holiday and birthday celebration? Are you a teacher looking for the perfect way to treat your students? Let us introduce you to The Chocolate Swirl. This Queens, NY sweets connoisseur offers a wide assortment of treats, but we are personally most impressed by their cakes. Visit The Chocolate Swirl’s Facebook page and take a glance at their more intricate designs like their Lego cupcakes and several cakes they made for the 4000th performance of Wicked on Broadway. Each sugary concoction is lovingly made by hand, ensuring that everything they make for you is an original creation. Visit The Chocolate Swirl online to inquire about how you can get your hands and taste buds on their cakes, truffles, and cupcakes.

BLACK & BLANCO

image via: facebook.com/ /pages/Black-Blanco/133671793366450

Black & Blanco owners Steve and Heidi make Moroccan-inspired shortbread cookies that are perfect for those with strict diets or food sensitivities. Black & Blanco cookies are egg free, dairy free, cholesterol free, wheat free, and never include Genetically Modified Foods or any artificial flavoring. What does a cookie from Black & Blanco include? Two of their key ingredients are organic rye and organic virgin coconut oil. Enjoy a guilt-free treat from them this Halloween.

 

Ice Cream Queens Opening First Retail Location at Essex Street Market

Co-owners Catherine and Ruthie hard at work at the New Amsterdam Market in 2012

Co-owners Catherine and Ruthie at the New Amsterdam Market in 2012

Unlike most of my cohort at The Fletcher School at Tufts University—who are scattered around the globe this summer—I decided to stay put in Boston and experience my first New England summer. As my summer internship at Accion comes to a close, I reflect on some of the close relationships I’ve developed with Accion clients, especially, Catherine and Ruthie of Luca & Bosco. Having grown up in Wisconsin (aka The Dairy State), I’ve always had a fondness for ice cream. So, naturally when I heard about their unique flavors, I was curious to learn more about their emerging enterprise.

Catherine, a self-described “professional eater,” convinced her good friend Ruthie to attend Ice Cream Science School. Just a few weeks later, the duo decided to launch their own business. By the summer of 2012, they had created their own ice cream company Luca & Bosco, named after their two canine companions: Catherine’s white Maltese, Luca, and Ruthie’s chocolate Labrador, Bosco.

Luca and Bosco

Luca and Bosco

While maintaining their day jobs, Catherine and Ruthie began cooking up flavors out of food incubator space Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem after fundraising through a KickStarter campaign.

After a successful first summer, Catherine and Ruthie decided to transform their hobby into a full-time business. Needing a compelling marketing design for their new brand, they attended a financing workshop where they discovered Accion. Catherine and Ruthie applied for and soon received a $1,000 loan to secure a designer for their wholesale packaging. Thanks to Accion, the recent entrepreneurs were able to attend both a Tory Burch Mentoring event, a Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream  speed coaching event, allowing them to network and learn from food and beverage industry leaders. “Attending the speed coaching events allowed us to speak with professionals that pointed out simple but meaningful ways to tweak our business to help make our brand come to live,” says Catherine. 

Just one year after they began crafting their unique ice cream flavors, Catherine and Ruthie are already opening up their own store-front ice cream shop. They will soon be open for business 7 days a week at the historical Essex Street Market. Serving flavors such as Whiskey Fudge, Toasted Rice & Coconut, and Rosemary Olive Oil with Spiced Cashew Praline, this grand opening will definitely be worth the trip!   

Visit Luca & Bosco at their new location in the Essex Street Market in New York City.

Luca and bosco logo

Brewla Bars in the Running to Become WSJ ‘Startup of the Year’

Brewla Bars are based on the finest brewed teas and botanicals with fruit and dairy ingredients. Each bar is naturally enhanced with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and contains less sugar than an apple.

Clients Daniel and Rebecca Dengrove, co-founders of the ice pop company Brewla Bars Inc., have been chosen to participate in the Wall Street Journal’s first season of their new documentary series ‘Startup of the Year’. The sibling duo first pitched their business to the WSJ at the Accion Client Ambassador Breakfast last March. With 24 startups selected from over 500 applicants, all competing for the title, the five month-long episodic documentary is now in full swing on WSJ Live.

After hearing the good news of Brewla’s nomination, I reached out to Daniel to get his take on this exciting opportunity: “We are thrilled to be selected as the only food business in the running for ‘Startup of the Year,’ with access to an amazing list of business mentors and a platform to share our products and story. We would have never had the opportunity if it wasn’t for the support of Accion,” Daniel said.

A Brewla Bars stand at the Fulton Stall Market in NYC

Brewla Bars’ stand at the Fulton Stall Market in NYC

Not only are Daniel and Rebecca receiving mentorship from highly successful business leaders and entrepreneurs but also invaluable exposure of their business featured on WSJ’s digital platforms, with viewership of over 25 million people per month.

I personally, along with the entire Accion Staff, wish Daniel and Rebecca the best of luck with the competition’s weekly tasks and upcoming eliminations. And in the words of Daniel and Rebecca, don’t forget to “Lick Well, Live Well” this summer, fellow Accionistas!

Help us show support by voting for Brewla Bars at http://projects.wsj.com/soty/startup/brewla

Check out Rebecca and Daniel's interview with the WSJ

Click on the photo to watch Rebecca and Daniel’s interview with The Wall Street Journal

 

La Idea en Accion

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Isela grew up in the small town along the US-Mexico border. She was raised in the best of both worlds, exploring the opportunities of the US while remaining closely connected to Mexico’s rich culture. It was this experience that prompted her to start her own business, Hernán, that aims to blend the two cultures in order to sustainably support the economies in both regions.

Hernán started as a kitchenware line targeting foodies whose discerning tastes appreciate the quality and authentic nature of the products. Shortly after, she expanded her business into Mexican chocolates. With the help of an Accion loan, Isela was able to fulfill the ever increasing orders for her award winning products.

Isela’s story is a great inspiration for people wanting to contribute to the economic development of both their host and migrant countries while seeking a niche for themselves in the cultural mix arising as a result of migration. Accion serves as a resource to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams by providing access to capital and technical assistance. It’s clients like Isela who sparked our involvement with the La Idea program.

logoLa Idea is a unique and extremely helpful way of supporting budding entrepreneurs. La Idea is the Latin American Partnership platform that connects entrepreneurs in the United States with those in Latin America, as well as with resources that can help cultivate and grow innovative businesses in hopes of generating employment and economic growth throughout the Americas. The La Idea Business Pitch Competition will serve as a narrative for telling the story of business partnerships, across countries, that create jobs, contribute to social development, and serve as role models and examples for the Latin American diaspora.

Accion has been actively involved with La Idea and aims to support all future initiatives of the program. In the past, we hosted two speed coaching events in Miami for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. Today, we are hosting a similar event in New York to benefit our clients and other budding entrepreneurs by providing them business advice and consultancy. We invite all Spanish-speaking business owners to come to the La Idea en Accion event Friday, July 12 at 6:00pm. The event will provide free consulting sessions from experts in the fields of finance, marketing, international trade, and more.

Learn more at laideany.eventbrite.com.

 

miami pic

Our clients receiving a one on one advice from business experts and interacting with other clients to discuss innovative business tips and advice.

 

Happy Independence Day

Josefina_small

Did you know that Americans most commonly define the American dream as “Opportunity, Freedom and Family?” (The Atlantic)

We’re celebrating our clients’ pursuit of the American dream this Independence day

A mother of three girls, Josefina started her store because she needed the flexibility self-employment offered. “I wanted the freedom to think for myself, make my own decisions and create my own schedule,” remarked Josefina.

De Fifa Variedades, located up in the Bronx, sells clothing, bags, jewelry and home décor. Her independent attitude and fashionable flair has earned her many regulars. These personality traits fueled her decision to expand her inventory. With a daughter in college, Josefina needed the supplemental income expansion would provide her. There was just one obstacle in her way—she needed capital. And that’s where Accion came in to help Josefina pursue her American dream.

This July 4th we are celebrating the success of our clients in their pursuit of the American dream. Like many others, Josefina came to the US to realize her dream of opportunity, freedom and family. Accion’s success lies in helping our clients pursue their dream and in creating an environment of financial inclusion and believing in our clients’ dreams.

 

 

 

Happy Fathers Day, Mario

By Peter Salas, Area Manager, Miami Dade County, Chase Business Banking

Peter_Salas

Peter Salas received the Award for Dedication at our inaugural Access to Opportunity Awards Luncheon.

My father Mario was a hardworking entrepreneur in the construction industry. He faced many struggles in order to get his business off the ground. He didn’t have access to the opportunities that Accion provides.

Small businesses are a cornerstone of local communities. They bring economic strength and opportunity. They strengthen neighborhood ties.

As a banker, I work every day with small businesses that face the same obstacles my father encountered when he first launched his business over 50 years ago. My father passed away three years ago. In his honor, I work to support entrepreneurs in launching their businesses.

Wearing my Chase hat, I have to say the work that Accion does is fundamental to small business development.  Microlending fills critical market gaps, and partnerships like Accion and Chase’s mean more business owners obtain the necessary capital to kick start their initiatives.

My partnership with Accion is simple — it’s about relationships. Our bankers work side by side with Accion staff to understand which entrepreneurs can be better served by Accion. We make the introduction, Accion fulfills the loan, provides hands on training, and the entrepreneur get a stronger springboard to grow their business. In time, and as their financial needs become more sophisticated, we stand there to help them navigate the resources to further build their business.

I am very proud to be able to support the work of Accion, in Florida and beyond, and help fulfill the mission of an organization to which I am deeply committed. This month, Accion launched a new website to help bankers like me access the resources we need to partner with Accion and together serve more entrepreneurs like my father.

Thanks dad, for your hard work and for your inspiration. Happy Father’s Day.

What motivates you? Share your story in our Bankers For Financial Inclusion group on LinkedIn.

Persisting Seven Months After Sandy

It was 7:10pm on Sunday, October 28th 2012 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. A local popped his head into H&K Grocery store to issue a warning to the owner, Kamal.  “Better close up, the water will be coming in soon.”  Hoping for the best, Kamal closed up his shop and headed home for the night. The next morning, he returned to his store to find everything destroyed.

Kamal

Kamal, owner of K&Y Grocery Store.

“The water had completely demolished my basement, floors, and cash register,” remembered Kamal.

Originally from Egypt, Kamal has owned H&K Grocery for ten years. Working every day has allowed him to see how the neighborhood has transitioned over the decade. Kamal recognizes most faces that come into his store; those that are unfamiliar, he makes a point to chat with. His grocery store is one of the few food options in the largely industrial section of Red Hook.

Recovery from Superstorm Sandy was not easy. Kamal had lost $50,000 of inventory, and, for 23 days, Kamal and his neighbors were without power.  Many people told Kamal it was not worth reopening his store. But this was his sole livelihood, and he had two teenage sons looking towards college.

“It’s for them that I do this,” said Kamal.

Kamal set up a generator and went to work making as many repairs as possible. Sensitive to others in his community, he set up a stand to give burgers away to hungry workers. Finally, one month after Hurricane Sandy, Kamal reopened his store.  BuKamal is still working on repairing all the damage from the storm.t his troubles did not end there. Kamal had wiped out his savings making repairs to reopen. He needed to finish repairs on his basement, purchase more inventory and retile sections of the floor. He needed help.

Kamal is still working on repairing all the damage from the storm.

Kamal is still working on repairing all the damage from the storm.

Through a community organization supporting businesses damaged after Sandy, Kamal was introduced to an Accion Loan Consultant. After carefully working through the costs of remaining repairs, inventory and working capital with his Loan Consultant, he received a $10,000 loan and a $1,500 grant.

Kamal is still working on getting his store completely back to normal and building up his savings. Though issues are still abundant (he is being asked to pay the electric company for the month he was without power), Kamal remains optimistic. His son, who wants to grow up to be a judge, sent a letter thanking the Accion Loan Consultant who helped his father with the application.

“I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate the help and services you have given to my father and it really brings a smile to my face when I see him so happy and so enthusiastic going through his hard work day schedule. Thank you again for helping him.”

Kamal is one of many New York City business owners with a similar story. Eight months after launching our Sandy Recovery Program, it has come to a close. We supported 77 businesses with over $880,000 in microloans and $133,000 in grants.